OK, we’re not through it yet, but as we look back on a very tough year, there are some aspects of the way humanity has adapted that we think might just have Lasting Positive Impact in the years ahead...
1. We’re cleaner – and less prone to illness
If the world wasn’t aware of how easily infectious diseases can spread before Covid-19, it certainly is now. The standard of hygiene in public spaces has improved dramatically, and that’s stifled not only the spread of Covid-19, but of other diseases – such as influenza – too.
2. We’ve got the time and tools to stay active
During lockdown, it’s been scarily easy to degenerate into a listless couch potato. But when all that slovenliness stopped being fun, millions of us decided to pull ourselves together and finally get fit. With the gyms mostly closed, that led to a boom in digitally-driven fitness, with Peloton, Strava and online workout classes enjoying huge upticks in popularity which means many of us are entering 2021 in better shape than we entered 2020.
3. Embracing the “family unit”
Whatever you define as “family” these days, with us all cooped up together day after day, week after week, we've had to get to know each other better, whether we like it or not, and in the process many have rediscovered what it is that makes their particular family tick. Researchers at the University of Calgary tracked 8,000 families over the course of 2020’s lockdowns, and while 3% reported that Covid-19 had caused their relationships to deteriorate, a full 50% said that they’d grown stronger. Which is pretty heartening.
4. We’re better balanced
Will “WFH” become a permanent fixture? It certainly looks that way for some of us, as many companies wake up to the hard cash benefits of releasing city centre offices. For staff, that means less commuting, lunchtime dog walks and fewer overnight trips. It might also mean changing nappies instead of picking your favourite Barista stop, but that’s also probably a good thing if you take a longer view.Increasingly, our work is now something that simply needs to be done, rather than be seen to be done.
5. In the neighbourhood
With car journeys and long-distance travel reduced to 100-years-ago levels, we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our local neighbourhoods. We’ve discovered new favourite local businesses (at least when they’re allowed to open), and we've come to feel once again grounded in our local communities, enjoying the steady reassurance of seeing the same joggers, dog walkers, gardeners and eccentrics, day in and day out.
6. How’s it going? How’s it really going?
Mental health had been a hot topic – arguably the hot topic – pre-pandemic, but Covid-19 really brought it into focus. With so many of us feeling the combined strain of lockdown, isolation, health worries and financial stress, ‘checking in’ on friends, neighbours and colleagues has become second nature – and will hopefully remain so as we all recognise the critical importance of mutual support.
7. I heart the NHS
The global fightback against the pandemic has been led by people in scrubs and lab coats who have finally gained the overdue hero status they deserve. Their tireless work has never been more visible or felt more vital, and they’ve earned our undying admiration in the process. How many kids will be inspired to become research scientists as the vaccine rollout begins to free the world from Covid-19's grip?
8. Our mutual responsibility for the more vulnerable
For those of us fortunate enough to enter the pandemic in good health, the day-to-day focus has been less about protecting ourselves from Covid-19, and more about protecting the more vulnerable members of our communities.
It’s been hammered home to us that our actions have consequences and seeing (most) people take extraordinary steps to protect both their own loved ones and strangers alike is a moving demonstration of the diverse value that people recognise in our communities.
9. The healing power of culture
All of us, to varying degrees, have felt emotionally strained by Covid-19. With our usual social outlets placed temporarily off limits, many of us have found comfort in both the solitary and shared experiences of art and culture.
Whether that culture is highbrow – a boxset of German expressionist films – or lowbrow – Joe Exotic’s lunatic adventures on Tiger King – doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it grants us an escape from the horror-show of Covid-19, reinvigorating our collective love for movies, telly, music, books and art in the process.
10. Back to nature
Manufacturers of hiking and biking gear have enjoyed an unprecedented sales boom over the last year, as millions of us have sought solace in the fresh air and wide-open spaces of the great outdoors. Even the most mud-phobic of us has come to appreciate the cobwebs-blowing joy of traversing a natural landscape for no real reason at all.
It turns out that birds, bees and trees really are better for the soul than an all-day box set binge.